Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

Kalma Coastal Tourist Area Update via Planet Labs

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Planet Labs uploaded some high-resolution imagery of the Kalma Peninsula from 2018-3-25 (you can see a sample of the imagery in my tweet here). With it, we can begin to assess the progress of the construction of the Kalma Coastal Tourist Area. I overlaid this imagery onto Google Earth and traced out the buildings under construction. This allowed me to make a reasonably accurate map of the completed tourist area:

The final large-scale housing project launched under Kim Jong-il was the eastern end of Mansudae Street (AKA Changjon Street, “Pyonghattan”). Kim Jong-il died before this was finished, but the completion of this project was one of the first policy successes claimed by Kim Jong-un.  Several others quickly followed: Unha Scientists Street, Wisong Scientists Street, Mirae Scientists Street, and Ryomyong Street.

I have only conducted superficial measures (this is only a blog post after all), but it appears the Kalma Coastal Tourist Area is the most ambitious construction project launched yet in the Kim Jong-un era (in terms of size and number of buildings). There are well over 100 facilities under construction on the beach, stretched over a four-kilometer-long construction site (the Ryomyong Project site was just over two kilometers long by comparison).

Some of the inputs for this project can be domestically sourced, particularly labor (conscripted soldiers), steel, and concrete. Other amenities like flat screen TVs (component parts), electrical equipment (solar panels), computers, sports equipment, transportation equipment will have to be imported at a time when constraints on North Korea’s ability to conduct foreign trade are most acute.

Pictured below (KCTV): Soldier working on the Kalma construction site:

Another item of concern to me is that the North Koreans are literally building houses on sand, and for this kind of work, you need to install a strong foundation before the actual building can be erected. KCTV footage of the construction site (broadcast the same day as the Planet image was taken) reveals that they don’t appear to be doing this:

Completing this project within one year (the rumored construction time) would be a monumental feat. It is possible that, as with Mirae Scientist Street (and maybe others), the buildings will be “completed” on the outside, but only one or two will be completed on the inside (the ones Kim Jong-un will visit). The rest will remain uncompleted on the inside for the unknown period of time it takes for them to be finished. Mirae Scientist Street still has unoccupied buildings, and it is possible Ryomyong does as well.

Click here to read the updated post on the history of this facility.

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South Hamgyong Sci-Tech Library

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

This information has already been published in RFA (in Korean), so here is the English version:

Pictured below is the Sci-Tech Complex in Pyongyang:

It is one of the most iconic buildings of the Kim Jong-un era. On the inside, it is an educational facility for science and technology, the development of which is a cornerstone of economic policy under Kim Jong-un. On the outside, the building (designed to look like a beryllium atom [four electrons]) is a showcase piece for the new style of design and architecture characteristic of the Kim Jong-un era.

In true North Korean style, which aims to establish equality across each province, it is possible that new “Sci-Tech Libraries” (과학기술도서관), based on the model complex in Pyongyang, are being constructed in each of North Korea’s provinces. I have to say “probably” because I am only aware of one new Sci-Tech Library in Hamhung, and I cannot say the plan is to build them across the country until I see them in other provinces.

According to Google Earth imagery (see below), the South Hamgyong Sci-Tech Library was built on the site of the former South Hamgyong Cultural Exhibition House sometime between 2016-2-26 (Top) and 2016-11-30 (Bottom).

Here are before and after ground-level photos:

The new building appears to be a mixture of architectural styles seen in Ryomyong  and Mirae Scientists Street. It contains two features resembling stylized hydrogen atoms, or planets with rings, on the roof. There is also a statue of a helium atom (two electrons) in front of the building.

The completion of this facility was not announced in the official media as far as I am aware, so this slipped by me until I stumbled on a broadcast image of a library card that featured the new building.

It is possible that this is a unique facility and that it will not be replicated in other parts of the country. Hamhung has a number of specialized research and production facilities (including the largest branch of the State Academy of Science outside of Pyongyang), and this could be a facility meant to nurture the particular industries of the area. However, it could also be the first Sci-Tech Library at the provincial level, and more are on the way. We will have to wait and see.

North Korea has been regularly featuring provincial-level “Sci-Tech Exhibitions” in the official media. The Pyongyang exhibitions are held in the Sci-Tech Complex, so perhaps the provincial exhibitions will be held in Sci-Tech Libraries such as these in the future.

North Korea was already in the process of updating local libraries (도서관) into “Miraewon” (미래원–roughly translated as “Future Complexes”). I am unsure if this will continue, or if new libraries will be re-branded as “Sci-Tech Libraries”…

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Namyang’s post 2016 flood recovery

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

New Google Earth imagery shows for the first time the scale of the construction work taken in Namyang District of Onsong County in North Hamgyong Province.

In September of 2016, areas of North Korea along the Tumen River experienced severe devastation from flooding. One of these areas was Namyang, across the river from the Chinese city of Tumen.

Here are Planet Labs images that give a sense of the scale of the damage during the flood:

August 28, 2016

September 7, 2016

September 17, 2016

Here are Google Earth images of Namyang before and after the flooding:

This construction project was monitored from China. Here are a couple of the pictures that were taken (Photo Credit: Getty)

 

Looking at the satellite imagery of the renovated Namyang, there are a few interesting changes. First, the Namyang market was destroyed in the flood and I am not sure where the new one is (or if there is a new one).

Second, a small revolutionary site was moved farther from the river so it will not be washed away again:

Third, we can see construction of the new Namyang-Tumen Bridge underway (but apparently stalled):

The image on the left is 2015-9-13. The image on the right is 2018-1-31. The new bridge is approximately 510m in length and will be able to support traffic in both directions simultaneously.  It is the third border bridge to be renovated/built after the Dandong-Sinuiju Bridge and the Rason-Hunchun (Quanhe-Wonjong) Bridge. This bridge was announced in 2014 and was supposed to be completed by 2016.

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Kalma Coastal Tourist Area Update

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Planet Labs (@planetlabs) has posted some March 2018 imagery of construction of the Kalma Coastal Tourist Area construction site which help bring the project into greater focus.

There appear to be two staging areas for the construction site where workers live and supplies are stored.

Below are close-ups of the two large staging areas circled in yellow in the image above:

 

I overlaid recent Planet images onto Google Earth and outlined the building and facility construction site. The coastal resort is taking place in the area outlined in yellow below:

Here are a couple of Planet images of the construction site where we can see a few building foundations have been set:

I believe this project is supposed to be completed in about a year, so it will be worthwhile to check in on it periodically with Planet images to see how the project is developing.

See previous (and updated) blog post on this topic here.

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Kim Jong-un’s new model farms

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

In the most recent issue of Kumsugangsan, the North Koreans highlighted the renovation work of Poman-ri (one of the eight scenic vistas of the songun era).

Here is the article:

A quick check with the imagery on Planet Labs does indicate that there was a new health complex built (normal at the town level, but only specially allocated at the village level), new apartment buildings constructed, and a school appears to have been renovated (also very common in North Korea these days).

Pictured above (Top): Poman-ri as seen on Google Earth in 2015-8-26 (Bottom): Planet imagery from 2018-2-3 showing renovated area.

This is not the first farm to be “renovated” in the Kim Jong-un era. It is also not the largest village to be renovated (so far it appears to be one of the smallest). So what is going on here? North Korea appears to be in the process of constructing new “model farms” in the KJU era. Previous “model farms,” such as Chongsan-ri in Nampho, are primarily associated with revolutionary works of Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il. These new farms, however, are intended to spearhead Sci-Tech achievements under Kim Jong-un which can be replicated across the country.

Jangchon-ri  (AKA “DPRK-Libya Friendship Jangchon Co-op Farm”) on the outskirts of Pyongyang appears to have been the first of Kim Jong-un’s new model farms. Consequently, it has received the most attention in the official media; it has been visited at least twice by Kim Jong-un; and it receives regular foreign tourists, journalists, and even foreign NGOs.

Images via Google Earth. Top dated 2014-3-13 (before). The bottom is dated 2015-5-20 (after)

KCNA reports from Kim Jong-un’s first visit to the farm after it was renovated (2015-6-30):

Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, gave field guidance to the Jangchon Vegetable Co-op Farm in Sadong District, Pyongyang City, whose looks have undergone a radical change to be a model and a standard of the socialist rural cultural construction.

He set forth a task to build the farm into an exemplary farm and icon of greenhouse vegetable production when providing field guidance to the farm associated with the immortal history of leadership given by President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il in June last year. He guided the layout for the construction of Jangchon area several times and took benevolent measures for settling the issues arising in it.

He went round the mosaic depicting smiling Kim Il Sung, a monument to the revolutionary activities of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the room for the education in the revolutionary history and the room dedicated to the history of the farm.

He recalled that the farm developed into a dependable producer of vegetables under the warm and meticulous care of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il who made indefatigable efforts to the last moments of their lives to provide the Pyongyang citizens with fresh vegetables all the year round.

He went round the hall of culture, science and technology disseminating center, Jangchon health complex, modern dwelling houses and other places to learn about the construction in detail.

He praised the farm for building the hall of culture as well as a national art theatre so that the farmers may fully enjoy a cultural and emotional life and constructing a nice park and a leisure ground having a volleyball court, a swimming pool, a roller-skate ring and a fishpond.

He was satisfied to see the library, e-reading room and technology study room in the science and technology disseminating center and modern equipment in the soil analysis room and the room for examining damage done by insects.

Appreciating the successful construction of modern dwelling houses, in particular, he was pleased that the farm carried out the party’s policy of making an effective use of natural energy and turning the village into an orchard by equipping each house with solar water heater, solar cells and a methane gas supply system and planting fruit trees around each house.

He went round mud-walled plastic sheet greenhouses and arch-style chain greenhouses to learn in detail about the vegetable production and management of the farm.

He enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of the farm from the observation deck.

He praised the Pyongyang City for working an eye-opening miracle in the socialist rural cultural construction as required by the party and being able to proudly greet the grand festival in October.

He extended thanks in the name of the Party Central Committee to farmers of the farm and officials and other working people in Pyongyang City for making a positive contribution to turning the Jangchon area into a spectacular farm reminiscent of a rural city as required by the party.

It is the resolution and will of the party to bring about a radical turn in the rural cultural construction with this farm as an example and torch, he said, giving Pyongyang City an instruction to push ahead under a plan with the work to spruce up well the farms on the outskirts of the city on the basis of the successes and experience already gained.

He expressed expectation and belief that Pyongyang City would take the lead in the drive to implement the behests of the leaders and uphold the party policies in the future as a political, economic and cultural hub of socialist Korea having the mission to hold aloft the banner of the three revolutions-ideological, technical and cultural.

He was accompanied by Hwang Pyong So, Choe Ryong Hae and Ri Jae Il.

The words in bold above indicate the types of facilities that are to be constructed at all of the new model farms. These types of facilities are already common at the city- and town-level, but still relatively rare at the village level. It would also be interesting to know if this farm (and other similar model farms) operate under different agriculture policies–such as de-facto family plots, or perhaps some flexibility to make agricultural decisions on the spot. Time will tell.

These types of projects are typically rolled out at the provincial level, so other than Jangchon-ri (Pyongyang) and Poman-ri (North Hwanghae), what other model farms can we point to that are being renovated under this policy?

1. Thaesong-ri (Nampho): This farm was featured on KCTV on 2017-9-21, and miraculously it has not been deleted by YouTube). KCTV described the village as a model village with new facilities that are pleasure to live and work in.

I have previously mentioned this village in Radio Free Asia.

2. Sokha-ri (North Phyongan): This farm was featured on KCTV on 2018-1-9, but YouTube has since deleted the material. Shame on them.

3. Sinchang-ri (South Hwanghae): This farm was featured on KCTV on 2017-9-20. This village has actually undergone at least two rounds of renovations. I believe the first round was done because the village is next to a popular road artery (North Korea has long been cleaning up villages long the main roads). The second round of renovations is due to the new model farm policy under Kim Jong-un.

Pictured above (Top): 2006-12-25 (Middle): 2014-3-20–showing completed first renovation (Bottom): 2016-10-23–showing completed second renovation in the new model farm style.

4. Jikha-ri (North Hamgyong):  This was also featured on KCTV on 2017-11-5, but has also been deleted by YouTube. I previously pointed it out to RFA on 2016-6-22.

Image above (Top): 2015-9-20 (Bottom): 2016-5-7–showing that the village is under renovation.

5. Phyongsu-dong (South Hamgyong): According to imagery on Planet.com, renovation of this farm has been completed, but I have not see it appear in the North Korean media to date. I previously mentioned it in RFA here.

6. Songchon-dong (Kangwon): This farm renovation has yet to appear in the official media (as far as I am aware). I previously reported in RFA that is sits just outside the security perimeter of Kim Jong-un’s Wonsan compound:

Image dates (Top): 2016-2-26 (Middle): 2017-2-14 (Bottom): Planet image from 2018 showing construction continues to progress.

This is not the only village to be renovated in Kangwon. However, I believe it is the only renovation project in the province related to this new series of model farms. Another village in south Kangwon Province, Thaebek-ri (38.574028°, 127.673046°), has also been renovated in the last few years, and several other farms in Kangwon were renovated as part of the Sepho Tableland Project.

Below is the information that remains TBD.

1. Manbok-dong (Rason): This area in Sonbong was formerly named Paekhak-ri, and it was the site where the North Korean government constructed new housing following floods in the summer of 2015. I could be wrong, but I believe that the post-flood housing is being pragmatically named as the new model farm in the city. However, I could be wrong. I searched for other village renovation in Rason on Planet Labs imagery and Google Earth, but did not find anything significant.

 

2. South Phyongan: I am still unsure which village in South Phyongan will be designated as the model farm to be built in this new style. I reported in RFA that lots of housing around Pyongyang Airport was being renovated back in May 2017, some of which is in South Phyongan, but none of these housing projects seem to match the new model farm design. According to a later KCTV report on 2017-11-20 (before it was deleted by Youtube), the Ministry of Coal Mining (석탄공업성), Ministry of Forestry (림업성), National Tourism Bureau (국가관광총국), and the Korea Oceanic Company (조선대양총회사) built new housing in the Pyongyang International Airport District. 1,000 homes were built earlier than scheduled and work was continuing on the remaining houses. However, it is possible that construction on the province’s new model farm has not yet begun in this province.

3. Jagang Province: I have searched the North Korean media, Google Earth imagery, and Planet imagery, but have not seen where construction on a new model farm has begun.

4. Ryanggang Province:  I have searched the North Korean media, Google Earth imagery, and Planet imagery, but have not seen where construction on a new model farm has begun.

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Kim Jong-un visits the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Kim Jong-un, chairman of North Korea’s State Affairs Commission, provided on-the-spot “field guidance” to the newly reconstructed Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory, as reported by the Rodong Sinmun on February 1.

In accordance with Chairman Kim’s instructions and under the direction of the Pyongyang Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) committee, the officials and workers of the Capital Passengers Traffic Bureau, the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory and the city government of Pyongyang have completed the construction of twelve new buildings and renovation of four other buildings, Rodong Sinmun said. Having completed the modernization, the factory is said to have started production in earnest.

Touring various areas of the factory, including the processing, electric motor, final assembly and overhaul shops, Kim was briefed about “modernization and production” in detail. He also inspected the new type of trolley bus manufactured by the factor. He went on to praise the factory officials and workers: “It is great that you have achieved more than 92 percent of localization in producing modern equipment and repairing broken facilities. It is also a great achievement you can be proud of that you have enabled the remote controlling of the trolley assembly process, automated the heat treatment process, and reduced labor and power input more than before by adopting power-saving devices.”

Kim also declared that, as a means of transportation, the trolley bus “should be made the face of Pyongyang, the capital [of this country].” He also stated his intention to “turn the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory into a world-class trolley production base,” presenting it as a goal for the second-phase modernization.

The leadership praises the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory for having established an integrated production system to maximum benefits in the production and management activities by introducing advanced technology to meet the needs of building a knowledge-based economy.

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Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

UPDATE 6 (2018-3-15): Planet Labs (@planetlabs) has posted some March 2018 imagery of construction of the Kalma Coastal Tourist Area construction site.

There appear to be two staging areas for the construction site where workers live and supplies are stored.

Here are close-ups of the two large staging areas circled in yellow in the image above:

 

I overlaid recent Planet images onto Google Earth and outlined the building and facility construction site. The coastal resort is taking place in the area outlined in yellow below:

Here are a couple of Planet images of the construction site:

I believe this project is supposed to be completed in about a year, so it will be worthwhile to check in on it periodically with Planet images to see how the project is developing.

UPDATE 5 (2018-2-2): The web page DPRK Today conducted an interview with a North Korean official about the Kalma project.  NK News offers a good English-language article about the interview here.

UPDATE 4 (2018-2-1): The Pyongyang Times offers information on the Kalma tourist area (like construction is expected to be completed in one year):

Wonsan-Kalma area shows promise as seaside resort

The development of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist zone is a priority project in the DPRK this year.

Seaside resorts are tourist destinations that are found by the coast.

The most suitable places for them are those with conditions favourable for such seaside tourist activities as swimming, sunbathing, angling, yachting, boating, motorboating, surfing and scuba diving in terms of the percentage and duration of sunshine, number of days with average temperature of 18-20℃ and with no or weak wind and the condition of seashore. Especially those with sandy beaches are so suitable for coastal tourism that many countries develop such areas into seaside resorts.

Currently, such resorts hold a significant proportion of the world-class natural tourist destinations and most of summer vacationers tour the seaside.

In the DPRK, many renowned seaside scenic attractions, including Songdowon and Lake Sijung of Kangwon Province, Majon of South Hamgyong Province and Ryongsupho of South Hwanghae Province, turned into coastal tourist centres.

The Wonsan-Kalma area in Kangwon Province is also a very promising seaside resort.

The Kalma peninsula in the southern part of the Wonsan Bay is an attached island which was formed by the wave-driven accumulation of granitic sand from the Namdae River.

The northern part of the peninsula which stands long from south to north consists in gently rolling hills and the coastline is mostly straight and smooth.

To the north lies the Hodo peninsula which stretches out from the opposite direction and in between there are Sin, Tae and other islets, serving as a natural breakwater that protects the port of Wonsan.

There is a scenic attraction called Myongsasipri which means a famous sand beach stretching for 4 kilometres in the Kalma peninsula.

A goldenrain tree rare to be found in the eastern coastal areas of the country stands at the entrance to the beach which is dotted with sweet briars. The red flowers in full bloom along the seaside surrounded by tall pines and clear blue waves of the East Sea form a harmonious whole to present a spectacular beauty.

The construction of the seaside resort in the Wonsan-Kalma area with Kalma airport will help satisfy the demands of local and foreign tourists and provide an ideal place for stopover between different tourist destinations and Wonsan-Mt Kumgang International Tourist Zone.

At present, preparations are being pushed ahead to complete as early as possible the Wonsan-Kalma project which will mark a turning point in raising the country’s tourism to the world level.

UPDATE 3 (2018-1-31): The Daily NK reports that construction on the Kalma tourist zone has started, and it looks like they are right. According to a recent article:

The North Korean authorities are mobilizing ordinary citizens and military conscripts alike in a push to accelerate construction of the “Wonsan Kalma Shore Tourist Zone” situated on the country’s east coast. Sources inside North Korea report that the authorities have conveyed their intentions to complete the project before the July 27 “Victory Day” holiday, which is referred to as National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day in South Korea.

The beach resort project, along with Kalma Airport and the Masik Pass Ski Resort, all appear to be part of a larger plan by Kim Jong Un to address economic difficulties by generating more tourism revenue. He made this clear in his 2018 New Year’s address, saying, “This year, service personnel and residents should join efforts to complete the construction of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area in the shortest period of time.”

“The authorities have mobilized 120,000 military members and 20,000 ordinary citizens for the Wonsan construction project,” a source in China close to North Korean affirms told Daily NK on January 28. “People are worried over implications of another ‘speed battle’ (intense construction mobilization) after Kim Jong Un’s order to complete the project by July 27.”

Read the rest of the article here. 

If North Korea was engaging in this sort of work, we should see evidence of it–and we can via Planet Labs. Pictured below is a plot of land on the south end of the Kalma Airport runway. On the top is the Google Earth image dated 2017-5-19. On the bottom is the Planet Labs image dated 2018-1-31:

The bottom photo clearly shows a large compound of temporary housing for construction workers. This kind of facility can be seen at all of North Korea’s large scale construction projects. The coordinates are  39.144608°, 127.503932° for those that are interested.

It is still difficult to see any significant construction taking place on the northern end of the peninsula. Planet imagery in this case is rather limited, but it also appears the construction project itself is rather recent. In the Planet image below, dated 2018-1-12, we can see just how much worker housing has been constructed in just the last two weeks.

(Note: Planet Labs created a .gif of the construction site. You can see it on Twitter here.)

If the Daily NK is correct, and this is the “Wonsan Kalma Shore Tourist Zone,” and not part of the “Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Tourist Zone,” then this indicates that plans for the area are still changing. This will be an interesting area to watch.

Here are previous posts I have done on the Kalma Peninsula and Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone. Here is a relevant article I wrote for NK News back in 2013.

UPDATE 2 (2018-1-31): KCNA releases some propaganda posters for the Kalma project:

   

These posters  give the impression that this project as ambitious as any of the major construction projects they have done in Pyongyang (Mansudae parts 1 and 2, Unha Scientist Street, Satellite Scientist Street, Mirae Scientist Street and Ryomyong Scientist Street). I previously posted about Part 2 of the Satellite Scientists Street, but it looks that that project will take a back seat to this one.

The previously announced (2015) “Kalma Street” project appears to have stalled in 2017, and this new tourist zone is apparently unrelated. It is unclear if the Kalma Street project will be completed or if it has been scrapped.

UPDATE 1 (2018-1-25): KCNA announces more information on the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area:

Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area to Be Built in DPRK

A tourist resort is to be built in the Wonsan-Kalma coastal area in Kangwon Province, the DPRK on a large scale.

The Wonsan-Kalma area is good for coastal tourism.

The Kalma Peninsula in the southern part of Wonsan bay is the connecting bar formed with granite sand.

The northern part of the peninsula ranging north and south is low hill and its coastline is straight and smooth as a whole.

It faces the Hodo Peninsula to the north and Sin, Tae and other islets are located between them which serve as seawall of Wonsan Port.

There are four-kilometer-long famous sandy beach resorts called Myongsasipri and modern Kalma Airport in the peninsula.

When the tourist area is built, it will satisfy the demand of domestic and foreign tourists and will be the most ideal place to link various tourist destinations to the Wonsan-Mt Kumgang international tourist zone.

Now, a preparatory work is brisk for completing the construction of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area, a radical turn in putting the country’s tourism on world level.

ORIGINAL POST (2016-7-15): KCNA announces new special economic zone:

Kalma Area of DPRK to Turn into Tourist Resort

Pyongyang, July 15 (KCNA) — The Kalma area, located on the central east coast of Korea, will be turned into a tourist resort.

The area boasts of four-kilometer-long beach resort, not far away from such scenic spots as Mt. Kumgang, Lake Sijung, Chongsokjong and Lagoon Samil and the Masikryong Ski Resort.

The DPRK Law on Economic Development Parks, enacted in May Juche 102 (2013), is applicable to the area. Under this law, foreign investors are allowed to conduct their business activities independently in the area.

An international friendship air festival is to take place in Wonsan City, adjacent to the Kalma area, at the end of September.

The official media hinted at this project a few days prior in a report on the Mubong Mubong Special Zone for International Tourism.

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Interesting new underground facility

Friday, January 26th, 2018

I was going over new Google Earth imagery of the east coast and saw an interesting new underground facility  (UGF) near Tanchon (40.409103°, 128.842130°). Based on Google Earth imagery, it appears to have been built sometime between 2015-7-8 and 2017-11-10. Based on @Planetlabs imagery it appears construction was carried out in the latter half of 2016, though I cannot say with precision owing to image quality.

This UGF is constructed in an abandoned railway tunnel, construction of which was halted at a time that pre-dates commercial satellite imagery (i.e. the tunnel was really old). Utilizing the plan for the original tunnel we can speculate about the size and shape of the UGF in this hill, but there is no evidence to conclude that the tunnel has not been altered as it was converted to meet its new purpose.

There are several other abandoned railway tunnels throughout the DPRK, but this is the first of which I am aware that has been converted to an alternate use.

It may be military related, but not necessarily. It could be a mushroom farm or it could be an underground document storage facility (both of which can be found all over North Korea)–or something else.

Interestingly, the road running into it has not been renovated all that much, and as of yet, I cannot see any power transmission lines running here.

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The strange history of the Pyongyang Teacher Training College

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Today North Korean media reports that Kim Jong-un visited the newly renovated Pyongyang Teacher Training College (평양교원대학).

According to Rodong Sinmun, “[Kim Jong-un] noted that the Party remodeled Pyongyang Teacher Training College with much care as it attaches importance to the teacher training colleges, a pedigree establishment for training teachers in charge of the education of children, and instructed that every province should spruce up the teacher training colleges with it as a model.”

Despite the glowing description of this model school in the official KWP paper, the school’s history has been a textbook case of “Our-style economic mismanagement” [(CR) Curtis Melvin 2018].

Up until early 2010, the Pyongyang Teacher Training College was located at the foot of the Ryugyong Hotel:

However, as work to complete the exterior of the hotel picked up, the school was torn down. In the image below (dated April 10, 2011) the school has been completely removed.

A new location for the school was selected in Mangyongdae District–the site of the old College of Mechanical Engineering. However it took nearly two years for renovation work to begin at the site (in May 2013). In the image below, dated June 1, 2013, you can see that renovation work has begun.

Renovation work on the Pyongyang Teacher Training College seems to have been completed by 2016, and it was featured on KCTV on December 20 (I could link to the actual video, but Google and Youtube have chosen to censor it).

I am not sure where or if the Pyongyang Teacher Training College was operating between April 2011 (when the old campus was torn down) and December 2016 (when the new building was apparently opened).

But we are not finished.

Although renovation work on the school was completed in December 2016, satellite imagery on Google Earth indicated the school was torn down again sometime after January 16, 2017 (Picture below dated April 21, 2017), and a second round of renovations had been launched. This wasteful economic management is apparently what the party refers to as “remodeled with much care.”

So Kim Jong-un’s visit in January 2018 indicates that the second round of renovations took just about a year to complete. Below are images of both renovations placed next to each other.

Unfortunately there are other examples of this type of economic mismanagement.

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Satellite (Wisong) Scientists Street Part 2 Announced (sort of)

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Kim Jong-un made his first guidance trip of 2018 to the State Academy of Science in Unjong District, Pyongyang, on January 12.

While touring the newly renovated history museum, he was photographed in front of a map that advertised the plan for “Phase 2” of the Wisong Scientists Street (위성과학자거리 2단계배치계화안).

I have outlined the approximate area on Google Earth in red below.

Although housing renovation in Pyongyang started before Kim Jong-un took over from his father, he has touted new housing as one of his signature policy accomplishments. Kim Jong-un launched his leadership with the opening of the renovated eastern end of Mansudae Street (and Changjon Street), then moved onto Unha Scientists Street, Wisong Scientists Street, Mirae Scientists Street, and Ryomyong Street.

Construction on new facilities has noticeably slowed over the last year, though implementation of specific types of construction projects is ongoing nationwide. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of this project in the next couple of years given all that is taking place in the domestic economy (sanctions).

And just to add to the confusion, this same area has also been previously designated for the Unjong Cutting-Edge Technological Development Zone, so it will be interesting to see how that develops as well.

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